A patient confined at the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) and classified as a suspect COVID-19 case, died Sunday. A pregnant woman, she is the 5th case of death while under suspect category in the province.

Kurt Acosta, El Nido information officer and municipal inter-agency task force (MIATF) spokesperson, said Monday the patient had been classified as a suspect case due to symptoms she exhibited and because of her “vulnerable” physical state.

“Initially, flagged as suspect case because of difficulty breathing. But noong dumating sa Puerto, may nakita pang findings na possible COVID. Dahil pregnant siya, kasama siya sa “vulnerable” sector for COVID-19. Inaalam pa ang iba pang mga detalye,” Acosta said.

A specimen sample was taken from her upon death, to determine if she had contracted the virus or not.

“Na-swab siya after na-demise yong patient. Right after, na-swab naman siya kasi may guidelines naman na puwede hangga’t hindi nadadala sa morgue. Hindi pa napapadala ang specimens niya, baka bukas pa, pero yong specimens nasa laboratory,” said Dr. Audie Cipriano chief of the medical professional staff of the ONP.

The case has yet to be listed in the Department of Health’s (DOH) official tracking report.

On Monday, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the Department of Health (DOH) reported the death of a 63-year-old female suspected of COVID-19 also from El Nido. The patient reportedly died on April 15.

Five cases of death as COVID-19 suspects

Palawan has so far accounted for five deaths prior to COVID-19 testing.

The first case involved a 36-year-old male from Aborlan town, followed by a 63-year-old female tourist from Manila who died in Culion. Both later tested negative.

The third case was a 61-year-old male local resident of Puerto Princesa City whose family refused testing, and the fourth case involved the 64-year-old female from El Nido who died on April 15.

Slow testing

Palawan is still waiting for some 20 test results from the RITM, with most of the specimen having been sent to Metro Manila as early as the outset of the nationwide lockdown.

The DOH-RESU reiterated that there is no “prioritization” among the MIMAROPA provinces as the center testing facility moved to San Lazaro Hospital from the RITM, after the latter recently reported that 40 of its personnel has contacted the deadly infection.

“May mga lumabas din naman [results] from Palawan, though hindi siya ganoon kadami compared to Oriental [Mindoro]. Rest assured, walang prioritization na nangyayari between DOH and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM),” said Geraldine Perez, health education and promotion officer of the regional office.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, the provincial health officer (PHO), said that “prioritized” mass testing has already started in the province, including those patients and household contacts for the suspected COVID-cases.

“Ang natapos pa lang [sa swab testing] ay [municipalties including] El Nido, Quezon, Brooke’s Point, Roxas, at Port Barton [in San Vicente]. Patients and household contact [ang kasama sa mga tine-test],” she said.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.